Photograph from Pixabay
The object of education is to teach us to love what is beautiful.
Plato, The Republic
David by Michelangelo — 1501-1504 — Marble
Galleria dell’Accademia, Florence, Italy
“In every work of art, something is being asserted about God and the world he has made, and that something measures up, in varying degrees to what God Himself has revealed to us. This applies to all forms of art.”
from a blog post by Deacon Lawrence: “The Artist Teaches Through His Art” found at https://www.thewayofbeauty.org/blog/2018/7/the-artist-teaches-through-his-art
Note from One Eye and Half Sense – When Michelangelo carved this depiction of David as a young shepherd, most other artists had shown David after defeating Goliath, complete with gruesome pictures of the dead giant. However, this artist illustrates the youthful warrior just before the battle, his slingshot, somewhat nonchalantly, thrown over his shoulder. Yet David’s body is tense as he studies his enemy, planning the precision throw that will achieve his goal, just as it had done many times before when facing wild animals preying on his sheep. And thus, beauty teaches us to rethink our suppositions and consider with more care the world around us, perhaps finding a new way to solve a problem.
The picture above is the front cover of a CD
that the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra sold to the public
to commemorate Robert Shaw’s 100th birthday.
It is a recording of a live performance, not a studio production.
As a long time Robert Shaw fan, I was delighted when the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra began selling this CD of a live concert in honor of his would-be one hundreth birthday in 2016. I had become aware of the Robert Shaw Chorale while in college and had managed to snag a couple of their vinyl records even during those impecunious years. I was especially impressed that he was a self taught musician and conductor and yet he had already made a dramatic impact on the American cultural scene.
Imagine how delighted I was when he not only “followed” me to Atlanta in 1967, but also immediately proceeded to transform our newly shared music world while also raising funds for and building the Woodruff Arts Center.
Another reason I bought one of the first Commemorative CD’s available was that it was a recording of an ASO performance very similar to one that I had attended in 1984. I will never forget the exultation of the audience at the end of that particular rendition of Beethoven’s Ninth. I remember well how good it felt to clap, and clap, and clap, and clap. I actually wished that I had learned how to whistle because “Bravo” just wasn’t quite enough. And, for the first time I, the ultimate prim and proper introvert, had understood people who jumped onto their chair seats or out into the aisles so they could express their joy more dramatically. I have no idea how long the applause lasted. I just remember that it didn’t end until Mr. Shaw asked the audience to please let them go, “because there’s just nothing more for us to give after this.”
This is the back side of the Commemorative CD. Please note the last entry of content, number 5: eight minutes and 41 seconds of applause recorded at the end of the concert. Remember this audience was composed of staid, dressed-up, classical music lovers that many might consider somewhat stuffy individuals. They were sandwiched together in an auditorium after a laborious bout with Atlanta’s infamous traffic. In other words, they were a stressed out bunch of people as the concert began. It was not a crowd of young people mellowed out after smoking weed and drinking at an all afternoon picnic/concert.
It’s now standard for the classical music audience to rise when applauding at the end of a concert to express gratitude for the evening’s entertainment. But, it’s usually a somewhat dutiful applause, as people quickly begin glancing around the room to decipher just the how soon they can start gathering their things to leave for dinner or after dinner drinks and still be polite.
This eight-plus minute recording of applause also records people shouting “Bravo,” whistling, and demanding yet another curtain call from the conductor. This is a modern example of the Theia Mania we first read about in Plato when a single person or a group has been freed from ordinary concerns and aspirations, then lifted emotionally and spiritually to a higher level by the beauty of the scenery, a piece of art, a musical performance, or a theatrical production. At least for a few minutes, the audience and the creators become one in a joyous unity.
For more information about Theia Mania, relating to the arts such as poets, sculptors, artists, musicians, performers, and audiences, listen to Robert Reilly’s lecture on Josef Pieper’s monograph, Divine Madness, Plato Against Secular Humanism, to a group at the Institute of Catholic Culture: https://instituteofcatholicculture.org/talk/divine-madness/
PS: Through the centuries, diverse groups have used theia mania to describe lots of weird events. But today I’m siding more with Josef Pieper, to wit:
“Such patrimony is achieved and preserved only through a willingly accepted openness: openness for divine revelation, for the salutary pain of catharsis, for the recollecting power of the fine arts, for the emotional shock brought about by eros and caritas — in short, through the attitude rooted in the mysterious experience that Plato called theia mania.” (or Divine Madness)
Another PS: Yes, the CD is worth buying from ASO and it’s not that expensive. But, it’s not as good as vinyl – or the real concert. CD’s are great, but they’re a pale imitation of the real thing.
Photo courtesy of
“Indeed, beauty is one of mankind’s greatest needs; it is the root from which the branches of our peace and the fruits of our hope come forth. Beauty also reveals God because, like him, a work of beauty is pure gratuity; it calls us to freedom and draws us away from selfishness….In this masterpiece, Gaudí [the architect] shows us that God is the true measure of man; that the secret of authentic originality consists, as he himself said, in returning to one’s origin which is God. Gaudí, by opening his spirit to God, was capable of creating in this city a space of beauty, faith and hope which leads man to an encounter with him who is truth and beauty itself.”
Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI
speaking at The Basilica of The Holy Family in Barcelona, Spain
Construction began on this church in 1882 and is expected to be completed by 2026. Antoni Gaudi, the major architect, combined Gothic and Art Nouveau forms to create his masterpiece. Since his death in 1926, construction has continued with other designers except during the Spanish Civil War. The words from Benedict XVI were taken from his homily in 2010 when he consecrated the completed portion as a minor basilica.
Centerpiece of the Sistine Chapel ceiling painted by Michelangelo around 1511
Whether one believes in creation according to the Book of Genesis or not, hardly anyone find the chapters about creation riveting reading. It seems rather dry and too simplistic to be “real” to our 21st Century culture. We can hardly accept it, even as “head” knowledge.
On the other hand, beauty in the form of Michelangelo’s masterpiece of the Creation of Adam, still invites repeated contemplation from most viewers after 500+ years. The painting shows a man offering his hand toward God while reclining on a green and blue background representing the land and sea of earth. In contrast, God leans forward and forcefully reaches down to bring life to the solitary person.
As we continue to absorb the emotional meaning of the painting, we can hardly escape the fact that the shape of the cloud that God inhabits somewhat resembles a brain cut in half. Could it be that the figures surrounding Him are “in the mind of God,” although not yet present on earth?
The figure of God reaches toward His new creation with His right hand while His left arm embraces a woman who eagerly, perhaps even lovingly, gazes at Adam. It makes you think of Eve, created especially for Adam and from Adam – to be a helpmate for him, but not exactly the same as another man.
A baby sits in front of the woman, the only person in the painting who looks at the audience. God’s hand rests on his shoulder, as if He embraces man, woman, and the child who comes from their union. It’s as if Michelangelo believed God created mankind to live together in families and wants his audience to understand that.
Copyright 2017 by Kaye Fairweather
That’s why schools have their own song; why atheists gaze in awe of the Sistine chapel ceiling; why important events are memorialized in monuments; why men give engagement rings to their beloved; why wives want to decorate the place where th family lives; why Coats of Arms and flags are specially designed to rally loyalty to a cause; etc., etc., etc.
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PS to my faithful followers: I apologize for neglecting you the last two weeks. Life has just gotten in the way again. But I’m back at home with the computer after two trips to visit family, so I promise to get back to you at least twice a week. And I must learn to use my new tablet for future trips.